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Assault

The Charge

Under s. 265 of the Criminal Code a person commits assault when they apply force directly or indirectly to another person without their consent. This includes threatening, by act or gesture, to apply such force to another person. Assault, therefore, covers all acts where force is actually applied (such as a slap, punch or kick) to situations where force is threatened (such as raising a fist). Assault is a hybrid offence, meaning Crown counsel has the option of proceeding by indictment, where the maximum penalty is 5 years imprisonment or, Crown may proceed summarily, where the maximum penalty is two years jail, less a day. There are no mandatory minimum penalties for Assault. We’ve been defending assault charges for more than 25 years. We understand that the majority of people charged with assault had no plan to commit an offence. Rather, people charged with assault usually find themselves in situations that rapidly escalate into a physical altercation. Often, alcohol or other intoxicants are involved. Sometimes serious injury occurs, leading to charges of assault causing bodily harm or aggravated assault. If a weapon, or an object as a weapon, is involved, people can be charged with assault with a weapon.

The Investigation

The nature of when and how a complaint is made to police will determine how the investigation unfolds. In some cases, for example when concerned patrons in a nightclub or pub see a fight break out, police are called and will attend quickly and make an arrest. In other cases, police may not receive a complaint for several days or longer. When this happens, police will contact the suspect by telephone or by attending at their home or workplace. No matter when police deal with the suspect, they will want to hear the suspect’s side of the story. As experienced criminal defence lawyers, this is where we can help clients understand that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees that people under police investigation have the right to remain silent.

In situations where clients contact us after the alleged assault incident, but before they are arrested, we can be of significant assistance. We will make enquiries to determine who the lead investigator is; we will then contact this officer and discuss the investigation on our client’s behalf. Because of the laws concerning solicitor/client privilege, we can act as a “buffer” between police and our client. We will strive to persuade police to not recommend any charges or, where police do want to pursue charges, we will strive to get police to agree to not arrest our client. Rather, we will endeavor to arrange that our client can appear in court to have the arrest warrant “deemed executed,” without the need for our client to be taken into custody.

Recent Successes

R. vs. V.B. – Vancouver Provincial Court

.Charges: Assault; Uttering Threats (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our client through, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to provide information to Crown counsel on our client's behalf which resulted in Crown deciding to enterr a stay of proceedings on both charges. Stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. T.C.C. – Richmond Provincial Court

Charges: Assault of a Peace Officer.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for our client to be granted a discharge for his actions in spitting in the face of an RCMP officer at the Vancouver Airport.
Result: Mr. Gauthier presented information to the Court and after hearing his submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal record.

R. vs. F.S. – North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Theft Under $5000.
Issue: Whether Crown could prove the number and value of the electronic devices they alleged our client stole from his workplace.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to allege that the theft involved  only 7 devices worth only $1000. After hearing Mr. Mines submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. M. G. – Sechelt RCMP investigation

Charges: Criminal harassment; Distributing intimate images without consent.
Issue: Whether the Crown could prove the circumstantial evidence they sought to rely on and whether jail was the  appropriate sentence.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to convince Crown counsel to not rely on much of the aggravating evidence and, on our client's guilty plea to not seek a jail sentence. After hearing Mr. Gauthier's submissions, the Court granted our client a suspended sentence with probation. No jail.

R. vs. E.K. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Criminal harassment; Distributing intimate images without consent.
Issue: Whether the Crown could prove the circumstantial evidence they sought to rely on and whether jail was the  appropriate sentence.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to convince Crown counsel to not rely on much of the aggravating evidence and, on our client's guilty plea to not seek a jail sentence. After hearing Mr. Gauthier's submissions, the Court granted our client a suspended sentence with probation. No jail.

R. vs. K.L. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issues: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction and whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the prosecution.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to provide information to Crown counsel that resulted in Crown electing to stay the proceedings and to end the prosecution. No criminal record.

R. vs. H.S. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault with a weapon.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to provide information to Crown counsel which resulted in Crown deciding to end the prosecution not approve any charges.  No criminal record.

R. vs. J.L. – UBC RCMP Investigation

Charges: Assault.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of obtaining a criminal conviction and whether it was in the public interest for police to recommend charges.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to provide information to police whic resulted in police closing their investigation. No charges recommended. No criminal record.

R. vs. T.A. – West Shore RCMP investigation

Charge: Assault (Domestic).
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for the Crown to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier provided information to Crown Counsel that convinced them not to approve charges against the client. No criminal prosecution. No criminal record.

R. vs. J.S. – Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Sexual Assault (reduced to common assault.)
Issue: Whether Crown counsel could prove that our client touched the complainant for a sexual purpose.
Result: Mr. Mines was able tp persuade Crown counsel that our client did not intend to touch the complainant in a sexual manner. The Crown agreed to proceed on the lesser charge of common assault and, after hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Judge granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction. No jail. No sex offender registry.

R. vs. N.R. – Sechelt Provincial Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Whether it was in the pubic interest for our client to be sentenced to a conditional discharge for this offence which resulted in a serious facial cut to the complainant.

R. vs. S.K. – Surrey Provincial Court

Charges: Assault; Assault with a Weapon, Breach of a Release Order.
Issue: Whether our client could be released on bail given Crown's concerns for his willingness to attend court and potential to commit further offences.
Result: Mr. Johnston was able to persuade the Judge to release our client on the least onerous conditions.

The Defence

Consent

To prove an assault charge, the Crown must prove that the accused person actually made, or intended to make, contact with the complainant and that the complainant did not consent. Therefore, for example, one possible defence to an assault charge is that the complainant actually consented to the contact. This type of defence may apply to an assault that is alleged in the context of a bar fight.

Another defence that is typically advanced in assault cases is formed under s. 34 of the Criminal Code – the rules of “self-defence.”

Self Defence

The law allows that if a person reasonably believes that force is being used (or threatened to be used) against them, they are allowed to use force to defend themselves, or another person, so long as the force they use is reasonable. In determining whether the force used is reasonable, the court will consider various circumstances, including:

  • The nature of the force or threat;
  • The extent to which there was an alternative to using force;
  • The size, gender and physical capabilities of the parties; and
  • The history and relationship of the parties.

Essentially, self-defence is available to the extent that the accused person objectively had to defend themselves (or another person) and that the force used was not excessive. We have over 25 years of courtroom experience defending assault charges. Our experience allows us to assess cases before they get to trial and, in appropriate cases, we are able to persuade Crown counsel to not proceed with the prosecution. This may result in our client being accepted into the alternative measures program, a peace bond or an outright stay of proceedings.

Start with a free consultation.

If you are being investigated by police or if you’ve been charged with a criminal or driving offence, don’t face the problem alone. Being accused of an offence is stressful. The prospects of a criminal record or jail sentence can be daunting. Even if you think there is no defence, we may be able to help. To schedule a free initial consultation with one of our Vancouver lawyers, contact us now.